City to start charging for use of council chambers for parties

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Fees to go towards maintaining historic building, council says

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The city of Sulphur Springs will consider charging a fee for using City Hall spaces, as of the May city council meeting. 

Currently, the city council chambers inside City Hall are available for use to anyone for no fee, Finance Director Lesa Smith presented to the council on Tuesday. 

However, with COVID-19 closures, city hall staff have been cleaning rooms more frequently, and would now like to propose fees to pay for cleaning of the rooms, Smith said. 

“There’s been minor wear and tear, and it takes an employee about an hour and a half to set up the room and an hour and a half to put it back together,” Smith noted. 

The Grays Building at Pacific Park, the Pavilion at Buford Park and Senior Activity Center do require fees, Smith said. 

Therefore, Smith proposed several different options: daily rental, hourly rental, and a refundable deposit. 

“It’s just gotten difficult,” said city secretary Gale Roberts, who often helps set up the council chambers. 

“I just don’t personally think we need to be renting it out for free when there’s businesses that depend on us,” Smith told the council. 

Former council member Emily Glass agreed with Smith as she spoke in public comments. 

“For several years the taxpayers have subsidized private events… in the form of utilities and… the three hours of staff pay that allows for the set up and break-down of events,” Glass said. 

However, said Glass, “To start charging would put the government in the venue and event business, which is in competition with several… local businesses.”

Glass proposed that the council allow the council chambers instead to be available to nonprofits, so as not to compete with private event businesses. 

According to city manager Marc Maxwell, the 2014 council initially waived fees for those who had their events catered by downtown businesses. 

“Now downtown is pretty well established and people are pretty good about using local businesses,” Maxwell noted. 

What currently concerned Maxwell, he said, was wear and tear to the historic building. Damage to the building’s original floors means they will have to be re-finished in the near future, Maxwell said, and the city will need to replace the rugs that cover the floor as well. 

“We probably ought to charge a fee,” he said. “I think it’s time, and we need it to pay for renovations.” 

The council unanimously approved a $200 rental fee, $100 refundable deposit, plus a $65 cleaning fee for all events for a total of $365, scheduled from June 2 onward in the council chambers, excluding nonprofits, and provided that booking parties provide their own security and other supplies.

If those renting the space "leave it in good condition," they will receive their $100 deposit back for a total payment of $265, Maxwell said.